Council Bluffs Community School District’s summer school programs continue to offer growing opportunities for students entering kindergarten through 12th grade to learn through a variety of experiences at a wide range of locations.

A summer school day could find elementary students pulling weeds at Creek Top Community Gardens, middle school students learning about endangered species at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, incoming high school freshmen learning about jobs at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy or career pathways at Iowa Western Community College and other high school students working at CHI Health Mercy Hospital.

“We are fortunate in the Council Bluffs Schools to have unique partnerships that make summer enrichment possible for our students,” Superintendent Vickie Murillo said this summer.

More than 200 students attended Elementary Camp Summer Explore at Bloomer Elementary School during the six-week program, said Carly Gates, coordinator of summer learning. The Iowa Reading Research Center is working with the district to study strategies for intensive summer literacy instruction. More than 2,500 books were delivered through Kids Read Now to elementary and some preschool students via direct mail.

Students also visited Hitchcock Nature Center, Fontenelle Forest, Lauritzen Gardens, Sanders ATA Martial Arts, Joslyn Art Museum, Midlands Humane Society, Hy-Vee, The Rose Theater, Canvas Concoctions, Western Trails Museum, PetSmart and Union Pacific Railroad Museum. They did some hands-on gardening at Creek Top Community Gardens and the Wilson Middle School Garden, which was started during spring 2018 and first used during summer school last year. Assistance was provided by the 712 Initiative and The Big Garden.

An average of 110 students attended the two three-week sessions of Middle School Camp Summer Explore, which focused partly on social and emotional learning this year. The program was based at the zoo, with students taking afternoon trips to Lauritzen Gardens, Hot Shops Art Center, Fontenelle Forest, Hitchcock Nature Center and WOWT-TV, depending on grade level. More than 100 parents came to see a student showcase at the zoo.

For the first time, middle-school students and incoming freshmen in the LYFT program visited Iowa Western Community College to learn about career pathways they could pursue through the Early College Academy or after high school graduation, Gates said.

“We wanted to get kids on campus so they could see what it was like,” she said. “We had 300 to 400 students on the Iowa Western campus this summer.”

More than 160 students participated in the LYFT Freshman Transition program this summer — a 50% increase from last year, Gates said. Each session was one week. Students learned the layout of the high schools they would attend this fall and spent afternoons visiting local employers, including Promise for Paws, the Charles E. Lakin YMCA, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, Spartan Nash. Iowa Works also worked with students on job-related issues.

“LYFT is about preparing them for success in the high school transition and also on the pathway to a career,” she said. “By exploring a wide variety of careers there, that’s going to help get them on that pathway for success.”

Job coaching sessions extended from three weeks to six weeks, from one site to four

The Extended School Year program is a three-week session for students with individual education plans that was held at Edison Elementary School. This year, 91 elementary and 59 secondary students attended. Teachers used a theme approach and connected lessons to Iowa Core Essentials and the students’ IEPs, according to Lori Durand, special education coordinator.

There were 24 students who participated in the job coaching unit, which was lengthened from three weeks to six weeks, she said. Students in that unit worked at any of four sites (up from one): Goodwill, YMCA, Planet Fitness and CHI Health Mercy Hospital.

Students earned more than 100 credits in June during Reach, the credit recovery program, Gates said. Four students finished their credits for graduation and received their diplomas.

It took about 56 people to operate the school district’s various programs this summer, Gates said — 30 for elementary, 10 for middle school and 16 for high school. Funding was provided by the Iowa West Foundation, 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant, Title I and At Risk (dropout prevention).

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